British Prime Minister David Cameron is planning to criminalize fundamental Bible teaching through his new “anti-extremist banning orders.”
Newly proposed “Extremism Disruption Orders” could likely thrust people from mainstream religions into a “disaster area,” says Oak Hill Theological College Rev. Dr. Mike Ovey, who is a former attorney now serving at the Church of England’s training school for clergy.
Pushing whose values?
Both Cameron and British Parliamentary member Theresa May conceded that the orders won’t suppress militant Muslims — only those who oppose values pushed by the government.
“Mr. Cameron and Theresa May have signaled that the new orders, planned as part of the Government's Counter-Extremism Bill, would not curb the activities of radical Islamist clerics, but the promotion of other views deemed to go against ‘British values,’ even if it is nonviolent and legal,” Christian Concern reports, according to Charisma News. “Ministers have defined British values in the past as including broad notions like democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.”
Cameron says that British citizens can no longer count on laws protecting religious viewpoints.
“[Britain has for too long been a] passively tolerant society [where people are told] as long ‘as you obey the law, we will leave you alone,’” Cameron declared in a speech last month.
Ovey contends that Cameron has failed to address how his new orders would end up quashing religion freedom throughout the United Kingdom.
“Dr. Ovey warned that unless the criteria are tightly defined, the orders could be used against almost anyone and would have a ‘chilling effect’ on preachers and even call into question the curriculum of colleges such as his,” Christian Concern’s John Bingham reports. “Even basic Christian tenets, such as the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, could be deemed to be offensive to other religions and branded un-British.”
Quashing religious liberty
The former parliamentary draftsman from the ‘80s — during the IRA terror threats — explained that teaching about biblical values in the U.K. could be very difficult, saying there is a “clear trajectory” between teaching on the Christian stance on abortion … and actions of violent abortion groups.
Foreseeing many problems, Ovey contends that Cameron’s orders will suppress religious freedom like never before, despite assurances to the contrary.
"They are going to say this is far-fetched and will never happen,” the ex-lawyer insisted. “That is essentially a government saying, 'Trust us with your civil liberties.' I would say frankly [that] human experience tells us the last thing you ever want to do is trust a government with your civil liberties."
The seasoned theologian and legal expert is tired of the same old promises from political figures.
"The government is going around saying it is all a time of national emergency,” Ovey continued. "I think I want to say we have been there before and got the T-shirt. It doesn't work."
In fact, the Christian leader has already seen enough of believers having their religious liberties swept out from under their feet.
“It follows a series of recent cases of Christian street preachers being arrested by overzealous police after complaints by people who claimed their traditionalist message was homophobic or condemnatory,” Bingham informed. “His comments came as alliance free-speech campaigners, including faith groups and atheists, prepare to launch a new campaign against the plan.”
Critics of the new legislation are wary of what lies in store for Christians on the island nation.
"[The orders would open the door to] idiot police forces arresting a couple of ladies from the WI and a traditionalist Church of England vicar who has said something radical — for example, that he actually believes in God," contends David Maclean, who serves as Baron Blencathra in the Conservative Party as a life peer. "But where do the problems really lie?"
A former member of Parliament from 1983 to 2010, Maclean makes distinctions to argue that the laws make absolutely no sense and are directed wrongly at Christians, instead of at militant Islamists.
"Do we have Buddhist suicide bombers?” the Baron asks. “Are there Free Presbyterians beheading Roman Catholics in Benbecula? Are there jihadi Jehovah's Witnesses? Of course not, so who then deserves to be caught in this wide net of extremists?"
Ovey is concerned that British Parliament’s Theresa May is trying to enforce something that she can’t really put a finger on and doesn’t fully understand.
"We don't know what British values are, other than whatever Theresa May decides on the particular Monday when she wakes up and has to make one of these orders,” the college principal maintains. "Having an inclusive definition is hopeless from a legal point of view."
He indicates that the new orders will create more problems than they will solve.
"Is a police officer going to listen to me saying that Jesus is the only way in a Muslim part of the East End?" Ovey asks. “There is always the argument that it will be OK on the night … yes you might be arrested, but you will be released — but there is always the thought that you won't be.”
The conservative leader says that the orders will discriminate against those who live and speak out their faith.
"The thing with a law like this is that there are going to be some people saying, 'I'm not going to run the risk,' and someone like me who is going to run the risk is going to look more extreme,” he explains.
From a legal, religious and academic standpoint, Ovey is afraid that the planned law will be a catastrophe.
"As a lawyer, I think it is a disaster area, and as a Christian believer and teacher, I think it is a disaster area,” Ovey concluded. "There has got to be a better way to do it."